Lieutenant Derwent Christopher Turnbull, M.B., RAMC
Died on 14th March, 1915, aged 24
Derwent Christopher Turnbull was born on 28th August, 1890 in Tettenhall, Staffordshire – the fifth and last son of Fanny and William Peverill Turnbull. By 1899, the family had moved to Yorkshire where his father was the divisional inspector of schools. Derwent himself was educated at the Sheffield Royal Grammar School, King Edward VII’s School in Sheffield, Giggleswick School (which he left in July, 1909) and the University of Sheffield, where he gained his M.B. and Ch. B. in June, 1914.
Derwent himself cannot have been much seen about Church Stretton but he is remembered here because his parents had moved to Burway House, on the corner of Longhills Road and Burway Road in 1913.
He volunteered for military service, gaining a commission as Lieut in the RAMC in December, 1914. He was for some weeks a medical officer at King George V’s Military Hospital in Dublin and then went to France on 15th February, 1915. He was attached to 84th Field Ambulance, 28th Division but on 9th March, he was lent as a temporary M.O. to 1st Battalion Cheshire Regiment. He had been in France for just one month when he died at St Eloi on 14th March, 1915, four days after having been wounded on the 10th March.
The story of the circumstances of his death was recorded in various places, notably in the Sheffield Daily Telegraph on Friday, 19th March 1915. However, one of the most comprehensive reports was in De Ruvigny’s Roll of Honour, which contains biographies of over 26,000 casualties of the Great War. It was originally compiled by the 9th Marquis of Ruvigny and
Raineval, who was very interested in genealogical research. Casualties included both officer and other ranks and 7,000 of the biographies included photographs. That for Derwent is reproduced above on the left.
The following is taken from De Ruvigny’s Roll of Honour:
“On the morning of 10 March, 1915, while Lieut. D.C. Turnbull was in his dressing station, a message came that an officer in a trench was bleeding to death. Lieut Turnbull, with an orderly, volunteered to go to him and about 10.30 a.m. crossed the danger zone and reached the trench, which was about 3ft. deep and half full of water. Lieut Turnbull attended to the wounded man but, judging some further operation necessary, determined to remove him to the dressing station. Rifle fire, however, prevented this, and the wounded officer and Lieut. Turnbull and the orderly were unable to get away from the trenches for many hours. About 6 p.m. they made an attempt in the course of which the wounded officer received a further wound and Lieut. Turnbull was shot in the lung. Of this he died four days later notwithstanding the utmost efforts made on his behalf by his colleagues, Capt. Bickerton and Lieut. Haynes. …………… Lieut.-Col. W. Salisbury Sharpe, R.A.M.C., wrote: “I do not know what form official recognition will take, but I can assure you of my personal appreciation that no greater instance of heroic self-sacrifice will be recorded during the war;” and Capt. R.E. Bickerton, R.A.M.C., “The stretcher-bearers of my section have spoken very, very kindly of him and admired his pluck, saying that he never let them cross a risky part of the road without being there himself.”
The recognition referred to by Lt-Col Sharpe was that Lieut. Turnbull was mentioned in F.M. Sir John (later Lord) French’s Despatch of 31 May [London Gazette, 22 June], 1915, for gallant and distinguished service in the field.
The orderly, Private (later Corpl.) J. Needham (1st Cheshires), afterwards received the D.C.M. for his conduct on this occasion (the DCM was established in 1854 by Queen Victoria as a decoration for gallantry in the field by other ranks).
The Record of Officers' Effects show that Derwent had £71 16s. 5d, which was received by his only sister, Miss Margaret Frances Turnbull in May 1915.
Derwent’s father, William, died in 1917 but his mother, Fanny, continued to live in Burway House until her death in 1937.
Derwent’s grave in Ramparts Cemetery - not far from the Menin Gate in Ypres
Gravestone image: copyright of Yvonne Roberts
Commemorative Certificate: Commonwealth War Graves Commission https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/446957/turnbull,-derwent-christopher/